I was delighted when a well known restaurant opened in my neighborhood. I live in an up and coming area and when restaurants with a good reputation come to town, the chatter increases, especially on the community FB page, and residents are thrilled and excited to have so many options to dine.
This particular restaurant opened in a beautiful building, and put in considerable effort (and money I might add) to create ambiance with style and provide an exclusive and varied menu that included fresh ingredients and signature dishes. They also made a decision to put a policy in place early on that not everyone agrees with. Making a bold statement, they refuse to alter menu items in any way. If you want parmesan cheese on your spaghetti, and it is not a part of the recipe, they will not bring you the cheese, regardless if it is available for other items on the menu or not. They will remove an item from your dish for dietary restrictions (i.e. tomatoes) but will not add additional ingredients (i.e. lettuce), that may already be a part of the recipe to make up for the ingredients removed.
Now I can appreciate the integrity of a recipe, trust me, there have been numerous discussions in my house, especially during the holidays, about how the recipe should be prepared, but in a restaurant that is trying to build its’ clientele, and competing for business, that is a trickier road to follow. So how do you balance, stay true to who you are, without appearing a little, shall we say, “uppity or pretentious,” and still maintain the dishes you stake your reputation on and build your business with?
Obviously you can’t please everyone, and you have to decide what you stand for. Burger King built their brand on “Have it your way” and Wendy’s gained additional national recognition when a certain political hopeful recalled their catchy slogan “Where’s the beef?” and used it to make a point. But not allowing any substitutions or additions can create an upset as it did when angry FB fans of the neighborhood restaurant launched a campaign on Facebook urging people to boycott the restaurant and rally against their policy. I don’t pretend to know the answer about how they should handle this PR nightmare, and can’t even necessarily advise if I think they should change their policy. (Not that they asked me anyway) I do think you have to decide what you stand for and be true to that, knowing that you are trying to appeal to your ideal client, but I also think you have to decide if it is worth it, and if making changes to a policy that you put in place can really damage your business or not. As a business, you have to have a little flexibility, you have to respond to your customers, and when you make a policy, make sure you can stand behind it.